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Instructional Design and Delivery - Synchronous vs Asynchronous

Usually an online program is a mixture of Synchronous and Asynchronous delivery. Lets first understand the meaning of both:

Blending both forms depending on the course objectives, class sizes and faculty style is recommended for the best outcomes, measured in terms of engagement, course completion, feedback and learning

  • In general, if the instructor wants to cover a certain concept, i.e. 1 way dissemination of information, recorded videos should be preferred. It is more efficient and the learners who grasp the material quickly can go through it fast and the ones who need additional time can rewind and spend more time with the lecture videos

  • If on the other hand, the instructor wants to explain the application of a concept or engage students in a discussion, live instruction would be preferred. Live instruction generally works better in smaller groups, although some faculty can teach 100s of students at the same time. In which case it might not be interactive. However, the faculty can still address students by name and answer questions that can be asked in chat.

Best practices to design Asynchronous learning :

1. Structured Videos

  • Videos should ideally be broken down into topics each anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes in duration

  • A brief outline or script should be created before recording the videos

  • Videos should have predefined structure, which is then followed in each course

Start with overview of the course or topic including learning outcomes of the course , topics which will be covered etc

Then explain the concept as you would do in a normal class using ppts / drawings etc

Explain where the concepts are applied in the real world

Enable students to follow along and apply what they have learnt

Summarise the topic

  • Videos should have diagrams and pictorial presentation to help learners retain the information

  • Avoid having a lot of text in the slides

  • Ensure there is eye contact while recording the lecture. Looking down or just reading from the slides leads to distraction /boredom from the videos.

2. Test student’s understanding after each video / during the video

  • In order to help learners retain and retrieve concepts from the videos, a good practice is to add small ungraded quiz either into the video or afterwards

  • These quizzes will be non graded and will also help learners feel a sense of accomplishment once they complete the lecture videos

3. Video Prerequisites and Restrictions

  • Consider adding restrictions where learners cannot unlock the next video before watching 100% of the previous video. This enables learners to go in sequence.

  • This restriction further can be added on to the assessments - i.e a learner cannot take the graded quiz before completing the particular set of videos.

4. Reference material

  • Videos are the primary source of content for learners before attending the live session. But to give clarity on the concepts reference material can be shared in the form of :


Reference E - Books

Links for popular blogs related to the topic

Synchronous Learning - Live Sessions

Types of Live online session

Best Practices to deliver Micro classes

1. Homogeneous Groups

  • Good practice is to form groups of learners with similar demographics - like industry , work experience, education background.

  • Allocate instructors on the basis of work experience and background of the group- For eg, allocating an instructor of 10 years work experience to the group where average work experience is 15 years & above might not give appropriate results.

2. Tips to make micro-session a hit

  • Session - Encourage participants to speak and not use chat option

  • Be prepared for the session - Ensure all your material /case study are ready.

  • Inform Students in advance about any technological requirements for the session.

  • Ensure to prepare for the session by watching old recordings and recorded lectures shared with the learners

  • Join the session 5 mins in advance

  • Know the profiles of the learners

  • Engagement – Start with asking about key learnings from the lecture week’s videos.

  • After every section, ask 1 or 2 questions to gauge the learner’s engagement level.

  • Try using Industry Example to explain concepts

  • Keep asking if they have doubts (silence means students are not following). Direct questions to individual

  • Ask students to do a recap of their takeaways. Close the session with a summary slide.

3. Mentoring is as much about tutoring the candidates about the subject as it is about encouragement. It is advisable to use following

  • Try to generate an excitement and curiosity for the subject

  • Encouraging mentees and giving them constructive feedback

  • Empathizing with mentees but being stern with expectations

  • This is a two way session where instructors should encourage proactive discussion within the group.

Best Practices to deliver live online sessions

1. Pre-session technical preparation

  • Support staff (moderator) is recommended for large groups.

  • Clearly define the role for the support staff.

  • Get comfortable with the basic features of the web-conferencing software

  • A brief class rehearsal with interruptions and questions is recommended

  • Keeping the web camera on gives a personal touch to the session.

2. Pre-session content preparation

  • 75% Content, 25% Q & A

  • The entire presentation should be covered in the session

  • Keep the slides sequential

  • Give lots of examples

  • Mention all the jargons/new terms/ concepts in the slide deck. Alternatively, annotate those down while mentioning them.

  • Avoid Long pauses.

  • Be ready with your questions/polls

  • Be ready with all the diagrams, equations, visual ways to teach in your dec

  • Use an online whiteboard effectively. Don’t create an entire thing from scratch.

  • Open all the websites/Youtube videos before the session.

  • Share the agenda with the learners before hand and prerequisites need to be completed before attending the session

3. Live Class execution

  • Start with an agenda which learners can see.

  • Stick to the agenda throughout.

  • Be conscious of questions that can throw the class off track and take them later one on one (possible through email or a discussion forum)

  • Draw in participants, prompt discussions using chat eg - How is it going, which case study to be discussed today ?

  • Purposely ask relevant easy questions to encourage discussion

  • Solicit Interaction from the class every 10 minutes either in form of questions or feedback

  • Improvise and spare additional time in revisiting the topic if need arises.

  • Create checkpoints for Q&A:

Break down a 2-hour session into 3-4 modules.

Use these checkpoints, ask students to share their questions.

Use Polls

Reflect if some course correction is required.

  • Set clear communication guidelines as the session starts

  • Be in a full disclosure mode during the session

  • For audio/video/lag issues, trust the word of your TA/IT team and move on with the session.

  • Students can always review the recording later.

4. Don'ts of an online session

  • Narrating stories that aren’t relevant to core topics.

  • Digression from the session agenda..

  • Statements that add to the learner’s anxiety and cause a disconnect:

I am going to rush in this last half hour

I'll skip this topic as we have less time

You will find this concept complex/ hard to grasp

I have this on my deck but I’m not supposed to cover this

4. Summarize the session

  • Provide key session takeaways (on the deck).

  • Sense of accomplishment for learners

  • Opportunity to ask questions for conceptual clarity

5. Handling Q & A

  • Questions in the text format – recommended for large groups

  • Moderation required through support staff

  • The support staff can call out the name of the student and ask his question.

  • Every question has to be acknowledged

  • Parking non relevant questions for the session end

6. Tools to be used for learner engagement during the session -( Both micro and virtual classroom sessions)

  • Breakout Rooms - can be used to create interaction or collaboration by making your content more learner-centered.Using breakout rooms can be what makes your training effective because it demonstrates that the virtual classroom can be used to obtain real training results.

This tool is different from chat. Participants can talk via their microphones and headsets, and can collaborate using tools like whiteboards, chat, and application sharing.

The facilitator can move from breakout room to breakout room to work with groups or with individuals as needed. However, it is common that participants won’t have a facilitator in a breakout room.

That means instructions for breakout rooms must be very clear. Instructions should be both in participant guides and copied into the chat area before sending participants to their respective breakout room activities.

  • Poll questions - When microphones are muted, how can you engage your teammates, students, or event attendees? Use Q&A activities to open the floor and spark meaningful conversations between presenters and participants. Creating polls is one of the popular tools to create engagement in the session

Ideally polls are the checkpoints for instructors to understand how much learners are engaged in the session

Ideally once after every section or 10 min a poll should be created in a 2 hour session

  • White board - Using white board to write equations / formulas is a useful tool in online teaching. It helps instructor to explain concepts in a meaningful way which cannot be explained just using a powerpoint presentation

Lot of applications of white board are available online

A digital pen to be used while explaining with white board.

Best Practices to train and motivate the online instructors

1. As it's important to engage the learners, its equally important to train the faculties/ instructors taking the live session:

  • Doing mock sessions with the instructions

  • Sharing all the content to be used in the session at one place.

  • Sharing recordings of previous sessions which will help them to prepare for the session

  • Doing regular training sessions to help them understand the do’s and don’ts of a session

  • Sharing regular feedback on the areas of improvement, guiding them by talking to buddy instructors/ faculty, having buddy sessions to make them understand how to take a good online session

2. Motivate /Acknowledge the instructors

  • With badges / words of appreciation it is important to acknowledge the popular instructors time on time.

  • Sharing the words of wisdom /appreciation from learners to instructors is one of the important ways to keep them motivated to take up these session

Have a question about teaching online, ask us here!


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